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Tajikistan20 May 2005

Sole independent TV station closed

Reporters Without Borders condemned the sudden closure of the country’s sole independent TV station, which it said would seriously damage pluralism of information in Tajikistan.

The tax authorities on 17 May sealed the offices and equipment of independent Somonien television in Duchanbe on the orders of the State Committee on TV and radio broadcasting.

The committee’s chairman, Barakatullo Abdulfaizov, justified the closure of Somonien at a press conference on 17 May on the grounds that its licence had expired on 31 December 2004. He was unable to explain however why the licence had effectively been extended to April 2005.

The worldwide press freedom organisation called on President Imamali Rakhmonov "to do everything possible to ensure that the State Committee on broadcasting extended the station’s licence in a fair and completely transparent procedure."

The station’s director, Ikrom Mirzoev, said the closure of the station was linked to a political decision. "We provided the State Committee on broadcasting with all the official documents, as set out by the prosecutor and the justice ministry, needed to renew the broadcast licence and proving that we are fully complying with the law".

"The government is unfortunately not in a position to check if all the decisions taken by the committee and the communications ministry comply with the law," he told Reporters Without Borders.

Somonien, founded in 1991, was the country’s first independent channel. In the run-up to legislative elections on 27 February 2005, independent stations, Guli Bodom and Somonien were the only ones to give airtime to all political parties. The State Committee on broadcasting closed Guli Bodom on 25 February, two days before polling, at the request of the mayor of Kanibodom, Emin Sanginov, for "breaking the law".

Several amendments to the law governing broadcast licences were adopted on 25 November 2004, tightening conditions for granting them.

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